Ranch Riding Fashion: Bringing Ranch Style to the Show Pen
As ranch riding rapidly grows in popularity, many competitors are wondering the same thing – what do you wear for this class? The class draws many with its no bling, workmanlike façade, however, that doesn’t mean that it’s impossible to add your own flair to the simple, classic ranch riding style. Amateur Emily Peak says it best that, “Ranch style is clean, rugged and effective. The clothes serve a purpose according to the environment and working conditions. In the show environment, it should not be a costume class but a clean, crisp looking picture of a working team.”
The most important piece of any outfit in any western class is, arguably, the hat. Many of the same rules apply in ranch riding that apply in other classes – your hat must be clean and well-shaped. According to Barbara Maitia of Barbara’s Custom Hats, this class is not the place to rock your high-and-tight pleasure crease.
“Combinations can be endless and it’s an extension of your style and personality. There isn’t a ‘cookie cutter’ style or shape, but I can share what trending styles are most popular. The Palm, Bangora and Shantung Straw Hats are often seen in the arena. I love the square top, flatter big-brimmed straw hat on a tall long legged man or lady. It’s classic, really retro and beautiful in the pen. Shorter riders can still wear the flat brimmed look, but with a shorter brim to complement their height. You can do a fancy stitch, but I recommend shying away from bling. Overall, choose a hat that fits your personality and a look that is rugged, yet classic cowboy,” states Maitia.
One of the great things about ranch riding is that it doesn’t take a big budget to be able to fit in with the competition. The go-to top for this class is a simple button down oxford. Most riders opt for more neutral colors, but others add a bit of personal flair with their shirt. Trainer and ranch riding enthusiast, Heather Young, said it perfectly that, “I think exhibitors should wear what they like and what they are comfortable in. So long as the wardrobe is not bedazzled you will be fine. Make sure your clothes are neat, clean, and pressed.” As long as those basic requirements are met, its fair game for what you choose to rock in the show pen for ranch riding.
Some exhibitors, like multiple Versatility Ranch Horse World Champion, Mozaun McKibben, prefer a classic pearl-snap shirt with two pockets. He notes that he generally will wear the same style shirts in the show pen that he wears on the ranch.
Leading APHA Ranch Versatility Novice Amateur, Renate Finley (pictured right), likes shirts from Cowboy Couture because of the breathable material. Kimberly Stewart, Owner of Cowboy Couture, states, “We, too, are horse people and knew what demands would be need to be met in a cross over shirt for it to be desired by our consumers. In addition to being a breathable fabric, it had to be comfortable and fashionable to capture the attention of our desired audience. We use a color fast technology to maintain the bright bold colors that are fade resistant, and can withstand repeated washing without fading or breaking down the fabric to extend the life of the garment. In order to save our customers time and money at the dry cleaners between shows, we developed a fabric that’s specifically woven to retain memory once it’s been heat pressed.”
In ranch riding, comfort and durability are the two main requirements for what we wear on our legs. Jeans with bling on the pockets are frowned upon, and show slacks under chaps look out of place. The ideal attire is something that you could imagine yourself wearing on a long day on the ranch. Many riders just starting in ranch riding opt to just wear jeans for the class, as chaps are not required. The biggest requirement for jeans is the same with all other attire in this class – they must be clean, starched, and well fitting.
One brand that comes highly recommended are the American-made Kimes Ranch Jeans. Tricia Sarchett (pictured above left) is the event coordinator for Kimes Ranch Jeans, as well as the 2015 AQHA Amateur Ranch Riding World Champion.
Sarchett recommends Kimes for their durability and comfort. “We created these jeans to give our customers a fashionable jean that still held true to our ranch roots.” The brand aims to “bring western back to its roots by creating fashionable jeans with a classic feel,” and they do just that. With a variety of styles, sizes, and inseams available for men and ladies, Kimes offers something for everyone.
Many riders show off their ranch flair by adding chaps or chinks. Unlike the tightly fitting, no-frills split leather or ultra suede chaps worn in other western events, ranch riding exhibitors can have a bit more fun with their leg coverings. Ranch Riding chaps are usually either split or smooth leather. They are often decked out in conchos, animal hides, and fringe to not only protect the rider’s legs, but also to show off their individual style.
While a variety of designers and leather workers can create custom chaps, there are some that are often recommended. Woods’ Western is one of these brands. With over 30 years of chap making experience, Woods’ can create a pair of chaps to fit the personality of the customer and the classic style of the class.
“The majority (of ranch riding exhibitors) are doing a lot of detail on the yokes and down the legs,” Babe states. “These are the disciplines that will order smooth out chaps rather than suede out. They almost always have contrasting yokes, bronc patches, the same yoke material on part of the cuff, trim down the leg to match yoke, conchos with or without leather ties holding them on, buck stitching, two-color fringe, and decorative stud designs.”
The Finishing Touches
To add the finishing touches to their outfit, many riders opt for a vest. While bling is not allowed, a leather or suede vest, with or without fringe, can top off an already stellar outfit. Others recommend a scarf. Some choose a regular square scarf, tied so that the ends are loose, while others enjoy the look of a larger Wild Rag.
Some riders use small details to add their own personal flair for this class. Morgan Ilic, APHA Amateur Ranch Riding Honor Roll Champion states, “I love seeing girls with the side braid. You never get to wear your hair to the side when you are showing in other classes and it can really tie together an outfit.” This small detail can take a simple look from plain to ranchy and chic in seconds.
To tie the whole outfit together, many riders turn to their saddle blanket. Jessica Wolf-Hart, owner of East Coast Couture Saddle Blankets, states that, “The saddle blanket is a great piece to tie together an outfit while adding a bit of personal flair. Some riders opt for more neutral earth tones, while others like to use their blanket to add a pop of color. French tan, sand, teal, and red are some of the most popular colors for ranch riding exhibitors. By having one pad that ties in a variety of colors, riders can use one pad with a variety of outfits, getting more bang for their buck.”
Putting it all Together
With these fashion tips in mind, we asked some of the leading youth, amateurs, and open riders from a variety of breeds to share what their go-to outfit for ranch riding is. This is what they had to say.
Mozaun Mckibben: There really is no real trend behind ranch riding ‘fashion.’ A lot of it depends on where you’re from. I usually show in what I work in on the ranch, just cleaned up and starched. I wear mostly Wrangler Cowboy Cut jeans and shirts. Typically my shirt is red or denim. Depending on the weather, I’ll wear a vest and a wild rag. I wear flat brimmed Resistol hats; straw in the summer and felt the rest of the year. I’m not a big fan of chinks, personally, so I wear leggings or shotgun style chaps.
Adam D’Agostino: My go-to outfit for this class is simple and practical. I wear a pair of well-starched and well-fitting Wrangler jeans and a pair of leather chinks. For my shirt, I currently am showing in a sage colored Cowboy Couture shirt from East Coast Show Apparel. Depending on the weather, I will wear either a Greeley’s Saddle hat which is a gorgeous chestnut color that accents the color of the chinks very well, or a straw hat.
Heather Young: My go-to winter outfit is a grey felt hat, Schaffer wool vest, brown chaps and a silk scarf that matches shirt and vest. My summer outfit a straw hat, long sleeve blouse, matching silk scarf, and brown chaps.
Emily Peak: I really don’t have a “go to outfit” for ranch riding because I show the All Around and I am by myself. I keep it as simple as I can so I can be effective in the horsemanship, trail, reining, western riding and speed events. I tend to lean towards the Johnny Cash look with all black (hat, shirt, pants, chaps, boots) if I am showing outdoors in the heat because sweat is less visible. If I get to show in the air conditioning or it’s winter, I might surprise everyone with a solid blue or red shirt.
Tricia Sarchett: “My go-to outfit are a pair of Kimes Ranch Jeans, usually the Betty style, tucked in to tall topped boots. I wear Armitas, which are similar to chinks in that they are shorter, but they have longer fringe and are more of a square cut. I also show in a flat top hat, a plain shirt, and a wild rag.”
Renate Finley: My go-to ranch riding outfit is a solid colored shirt in a color that compliments my horse and myself. I will pair my shirt with a wild rag or scarf that has a fun pattern that shows some personality in colors that coordinate with my shirt. I like my jeans to be starched, and try to minimize the amount of “bling” on the pockets. I personally wear full length Arizona Bell style leggings to show in. I had them custom made to fit myself, and they have some fun details on them, too. My leggings are black, so I wear black boots, as to minimize the amount of movement you see from my feet. I will either wear a straw or felt hat depending on the season, and they tend to have a bit larger brim and are always cleaned and shaped.
Jenna Seal: When I led the nation in 2014, the horse I was showing was a palomino. To accent his color, everything I wore went along with my blue color scheme. My go-to outfit was a pair of chestnut colored leather chaps, a light blue shirt, and a navy hat with light blue stitching. I also braid my hair over my shoulder to keep it out of the way while I show. This outfit was comfortable and fun to wear and I always felt confident in it.
While simple and understated is definitely accepted in ranch riding, there is plenty of room to add your own personal style. Regardless of how you choose to express yourself in this class, one rule applies – keep it ranchy!
Thank you to Barbara Maitia of Barbara’s Custom Hats, Tricia Sarchett of Kimes Ranch Jeans, Jessica Wolf-Hart of East Coast Show Apparel, Kimberly Stewart of Cowboy Couture, Heather Young, Mozaun McKibben, Adam D’Agostino, Jenna Seal, Morgan Ilic, Emily Peak, and Renate Finley for contributing to this article.